When we set out to teach inquirers and catechumens about faith, we sometimes get caught in a worry-trap that we may not be giving them enough doctrine. When you think about how Jesus taught, you’ll notice that he delivered a lot of “doctrine,” but he didn’t worry about it too much. What he focused on instead was creating an experience of the living God. He created a spiritual “wow.”
Follow Jesus’ example
You can do the same thing with your inquirers and catechumens, and you don’t have to walk on water to do it. Take the example of how Jesus began to catechize Simon (Peter) and Andrew. Jesus was walking along the seashore when he saw the two brothers casting a net for fish. He shouted to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
The Scripture says that the two immediately left their nets—their business, their livelihood, their safety net—and followed Jesus (Mt 4:19-20). Jesus didn’t say much about what “follow me” meant, but he had successfully built up a great deal of anticipation in the hearts of Simon and Andrew about what it might mean.
Anticipation—a key teaching method in the RCIA
What we want to do is use the same teaching technique with our inquirers and the catechumens. This is the opposite of what many of us do. Often, we lay out the whole plan from the very beginning. We have our lesson plans all typed and filed. We explain to the inquires how many weeks of inquiry they will have and what they will be “studying.” We have the rituals already scheduled, and we explain them in great detail. Sometimes joining the church can seem more like mastering a complex business deal rather than having an experience of the living God.
Try to let go of some of the details and the preplanning. Or if you must, go ahead and plan, but don’t lay out all the details to the inquires or catechumens just yet. And make a vow to yourself that you will be willing to let go of your plans if the Holy Spirit is nudging your inquires or catechumens in a different direction.
What did you anticipate?
Instead of planning, focus more on building anticipation. Talk more about the the thrill and adventure of being a follower of Christ. Give them some hints of what is to come, and be a little breathless when you do. Recall your own sense of anticipation when you took your first steps away from your safety net. What were you looking forward to? What did you imagine a life of discipleship would be like? Teach your inquires or catechumens about that.
(This series on creating “wow” experiences is based on the ideas of Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson Books.)